I work in a very small office consisting of 8 people. We have 1 member of staff who is a little bit odd, comes out with random remarks and has a very different view on the world. I'm going to call her Trish in this post. Every person in the office has discussed her strangeness at some point, in no way is it ever put in a cruel or vindictive way. She had a mental breakdown a while ago and the company even paid for professional help as we did want to lose her as she is perfect at her job. Due to this we are all actually quite protective of her as she is very timid and child like even though she is older than me.

So basically this morning I was pulled aside by one of my managers to say 'Trish' was crying earlier at another member of staff as she had been on my computer and seen an email that I had sent to a friend/colleague. We have little chats every now and again when working, silly things like today is going so slow or what you doing (we're not in the office) anyway this one particular email had a comment from me saying 'Trish is being morbid again, keeps asking me what she is supposed to do if her partner dies suddenly. Asked if there was something wrong with him but nope he perfectly healthy. It was just a random thought that came into her head. I explained to my friend that I was struggling to know how to respond to these types of comments as it a bit weird. didn't really think anything else of it.

'Trish' has said to the colleague she was crying at that I'm a bully, I'm cruel, and she's applied for another job as she doesn't want to work with me any more.

First of all I feel bad for the comment I made in the email but it was never meant in a cruel way. Me and 'Trish' have often joked about the strange things that pop into her head and her compulsive worrying. She always comes to me to talk.

secondly my issue is that this email is actually from 6 months ago so for some reason she has gone looking through my work emails which is not allowed especially since I have a lot of confidential items in my emails i.e wage information, vendor agreements, bank information/agreements.

thirdly she said she saw the email this morning and she has also applied for a job this morning so has used company pc's to look and apply for different work.

I don't know how to respond to the situation. Should I confront her about it or just leave it as she told the original member of staff not to say anything. But he did as the word bully got out in the conversation. In no way would I ever try to make someone feel bad but I also feel like she should never of seen the email if she wasn't snooping on my machine. I'm just very confused right now.

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    Do you leave your computer unlocked when you're away? You should always lock your computer, especially with such sensitive information. If she read the emails she probably read the bits about wages and who knows what more can happen now. – Dan Jul 1 '16 at 12:27
  • We are a tiny very laid back office. It isn't company policy to lock machines, I've never felt like someone would poke about my emails. I will be from now. – Charlotte Jul 1 '16 at 18:39
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    That is when a cleaver spy dress like the manteinence guy steal all your information. Or a disgrunted employee send a massive email with everyone salary using your account. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Jul 1 '16 at 21:19

Yes you are to blame because you are her coworker/friend and she found an email where you were talking about her behind her back. She is hurt because of it. So you either needs to make amends with her or...

your management needs to decide that she shouldn't be on your email, has gone way beyond normal guidelines, and needs to be fired ASAP.

Really this depends on your office culture and how long it would take to get another employee doing her job. And if you and your management really wants her. I would talk to your manager and figure this out.

On a side note: If you have someone who acts like this you are egging on her attitude and behavior through your actions. She doesn't act professional because you let her act out so much. Those types don't have to be fired but they should be told no (like a 2 year old). It sounds like a nursery not workplace. Also keep your damn computer locked - thinking this person is not a hacking genius.

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  • Her job is incredibly repetitive but also really important. I could cover her role for a while if we did lose her but I know my manager won't fire her as she was caught on several occasions looking at job site and house sites last year. I've never thought of it as a nursery before but it actually a perfect description. I never meant the comment to be talking behind her back. I was stressed out as I didn't know how to keep coping with the comments she always makes. We've never had to lock computers before as its such a small office and everyone trust everyone. I will from now on. – Charlotte Jul 1 '16 at 18:23
  • @Charlotte - if you want her to stay just tell her you are sorry... but you should also tell her you didn't mean anything by it and quit snooping through your email. – blankip Jul 1 '16 at 19:11

I am really hoping the manager called you aside more to inform you and not to reprimand.

Yes that is not a flattering statement but to me it is objective and you are asking how to deal with her?

If she went through your email and did not have an approved business purpose then her finding it is her problem. Her reaction is her problem. If she had authority to go through your email clearly you would not have done that.

Her going through you email is a problem and you should tell your manager.

Don't approach her. She has already called you a bully and will likely consider any approach by you as bulling.

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  • Thank you for your comments, I really appreciate it. My manger did make it feel like he was informing me rather than reprimanding me. He did say several times that he knows I'm not a cruel person and it didn't sound like me. – Charlotte Jul 1 '16 at 18:18
  • If that was your answer then you can indicate so by clicking the check – paparazzo Jul 1 '16 at 18:20

I would just leave it alone. I can't think of anything you could initiate that would make it better. Some people just dramatise everything. I'd wait until she actually approached me or there was a meeting called.

Most things like this fade into the past real quick as the next drama comes along.

Lastly, lock your machine whenever you're away from it. It's her fault for snooping, and your fault for giving the opportunity.

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    Thank you for your comments. I will be locking my machine from now on. It's a shame as we are such a small office and have never felt like I couldn't trust people in the office before. – Charlotte Jul 1 '16 at 18:19
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    @Charlotte I lock my machine even when I'm the only person in my office. – Kilisi Jul 1 '16 at 20:34

Though, from your description, Trish sounds to have some issues, I would venture to guess that the reason why she was a upset, was due to a breach of confidence. She might have felt that she could talk to you about anything, anytime and that you would be there to listen. But then she discovers that you don't keep her information to yourself but that you share it with other colleagues and/or friends. Confidence expectation are always something complex, often expected but rarely outspoken.

From what you previously described of her, that realisation might have given her a feeling of treason. And she reacts impulsively.

So now to your actions:

  1. We all love some gossip, but they can be harmful to the subject. While it's reasonable to ask some help to deal with it, I would recommend to avoid doing it in written form.

  2. She may behave like a 3-years old child, but she's a grown up, you're not her mother, if she decides to leave, let her do it. It might even be good for her, for all we know.

  3. Clarify with HR the whole situation. But you're 8. HR probably know how you behave usually, so I would not worry.

  4. Never, ever again, leave your computer unlock when you aren't working on it. Especially if you have potentially sensible documents on it. I have heard/read about people being fired for exactly this. (Even if, hopefully, rare).

  5. Don't use your professional mail for personal discussions. While often tolerated, it is usually not allowed. And your professional mails are often stored, meaning they might be fully accessible to your boss and/or the IT.

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  • Everyone has opinions on other people, even close friends. It's human nature to gossip or whatnot. With that said, I think it is more breech of trust that someone actively seek this from others, especially when they are in a vulnerable position. Had this been outside the work place, she would have 0 grounds to stand on as far as complaining about what other people think of her. – Dan Jul 1 '16 at 16:37
  • As we're such a small office we don't technically have a HR department and any issues that would normally go through them are sorted by me.....the comments were never meant as gossip just a 'what the hell do I do, because I don't know how to respond to her'. We are a tiny office and locking computers has never been an issue however due to this I will be locking it from now on. – Charlotte Jul 1 '16 at 18:36

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